Thursday, 07 September 2017

The Best Places to Visit in Nepal

Nepal is a country that has many features, qualities and attributes that it possesses which makes visiting the country a wonderfully rich and exciting affair. With attractions that are both natural and man-made, Nepal is quite comprehensive in terms of amazing sites and settings. There are many places to visit in Nepal and exploring and spending time in the beautiful locations of the country is a great way to get new knowledge and experience of exotic things that are unique only to Nepal and not found anywhere else. For a small country, Nepal has developed its own sense of identity and countenance. It has its own unique lore, legends and stories based on the many ethnic groups that occupy the land. The historical aspects of the country are also reflected brilliantly on the old buildings and monuments that are scattered throughout. The religious temples and pious places are also a staple of the country’s rich dexterity. Nepal’s ambiguity and peculiarities are reflected wonderfully on its many facets, and touring the country is a matter of many options and choices to choose from, with a variety of alternates that range from religious and cultural tours to adventure activities. Here are the top places to visit in Nepal-

In the Kathmandu Valley

The Valley of Kathmandu lies at the central part of the country at an elevation of 1,425 meters. It is surrounded by mountain ranges of the Shivapuri, the Phulchowki, Nagerjun and Chandragiri. The holy river of Bagmati flows through the valley and drains many of its parts. There are three main districts in the valley- Kathmandu, Lalitpur and the Bhaktapur, each having their own unique features and attributes. Kathmandu Valley is the main cultural and political hub of the country and it also has the highest population. For places to visit in Nepal, Kathmandu Valley has one of the densest concentration of World Heritage Sites, accorded by UNESCO in the year 1979. The bowl-shaped valley lies at the crossroads of ancient civilizations and has monuments, temples and buildings that have been influenced by Nepal’s neighboring countries.  It is a melting pot of various cultures, ethnic groups, languages and religions. All of the ancient cities and districts of the valley have amazing historical buildings, street festivals (Jatras) and temple that pertain to the country’s history and its religion. Here are the top places to visit in Nepal in the Kathmandu Valley-

In the Kathmandu District

The district of Kathmandu covers an area of 395 square kilometers and is one of the most densely populated districts of Nepal. The district’s headquarters is the Kathmandu city, which is also the nation’s capital. There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu city, along with many other temples and attractions. The attractions are as follows-

The Pashupatinath Temple (A UNESCO World Heritage Site)

The famous Hindu temple of Pashupatinath is located at the banks of the Bagmati River. It is one of the most sacred temples of the Hindu faith and is dedicated to Lord Pashupatinath- an incarnation of the Hindu God Shiva. The large temple and its complex are a recumbent collection smaller temples, ashrams, statues and idols that date back over centuries. On festivals like the Maha Shivaratri, the temple of Pashupatinath is visited by thousands of Hindu pilgrims from all parts of the country and parts of India as well. The main temple is constructed in the authentic pagoda style of Nepali architecture and is located inside a fortified courtyard. The temple also has the ornamentation of a bronze bull statue in its western door. Along with that, many temples and shrines of the Vaishnava and the Shaiva traditions also surround the main temple. With cubical constructions, the temple is beautifully carved and decorated with wooden and metal rafters. It has a golden pinnacle at the top of its roof and four main doors that are covered in silver sheets. 

The Bouddhanath Stupa (A UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Among the many places to visit in Nepal in the Kathmandu city, the Bouddhanath Stupa is among the most famous. Bouddhanath is the largest Buddhist Mandala in the entire world and is said to entomb the remains of the Kassapa Buddha. It is believed that thousands of Buddhas and heavenly Deities have been reincarnated as lamas in the Bouddhanath stupa. It is held in great reverence by the Buddhist people and has many prayer wheels joint at the walls of the stupa. Buddhist priests carrying prayer beads can be seen circumbulating the stupa and offering prayers. The atmosphere of the stupa is quite tranquil and peaceful.

The Swayambhunath Temple (A UNESCO World Heritage Site)

The Swayambhunath Temple, located on a hilltop, is one of the oldest temples in the valley. It is held in very high regards and reverence by the valley’s Buddhist Newar people. Along with Bouddhanath, it is the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site in the country. The temple and its complex consist of a stupa and a variety of shrines and smaller temples that date all the way back to the Lichchhavi period. Much of the temple’s iconography comes from the Vajranarayana tradition of Buddhist Newar culture. Like with most of the temples and religious sites in the country, Swayambhunath is also revered by the Hindu people along with the Buddhist. Consisting of a dome base, the temple is built in a cubical structure with painted Buddha eyes on all four sides. There are pentagonal Torans (with 13 tiers) above the cube with statues of the Gajur in them. There are many artifacts inside the temple as well.

The Kathmandu Durbar Square (A UNESCO World Heritage Site)

The Kathmandu Durbar Square is a palace complex that contains many old temples and buildings from the medieval times of Nepal. It was the old royal seat of power of the Kathmandu Kingdom (before unified Nepal). It is surrounded by spectacular architecture and brilliantly showcases the Newar artistry and craftsmanship of the people over several centuries. The Malla and Shah Kings ruled over the Kathmandu city from the palace and the Square manages to capture Nepal’s reminiscing past with much melancholy. It is also called the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square and it has many quadrangles, revealing courtyards and temples with amazing statues of idols and gods.             

The Dakshinkali Temple

The Dakshinkali Temple lies 22 kilometers outside Kathmandu city. It is considered as one of the main temples in Nepal and is dedicated to the Goddess Kali- the Hindu Goddess of the Universe. Hundreds of pilgrims and worshippers gather at the temple during the Dashain and Tihar festivals. The temple is surrounded by trees and greenery, which makes the atmosphere of the temple quite serene. The name of the temple is composed of two Nepali words- “Dakshin” meaning “South” and “Kali”, a name referring to the Goddess. It is also an indication of the temple’s position; Dakshinkali is located spectacularly in a river gorge.

The Narayanhiti Palace Museum

The Narayanhiti Palace Museum was the former Royal Palace of Nepal’s ruling monarch. It is located at the capital of Nepal and lies very close to Kaiser Mahal next to the tourist hub of the city- Thamel. Now a museum that showcases the former royalty’s possessions and treasures, Narayanhiti has an impressive and vast array of courtyards, gardens and buildings within its complex. The palace was built by King Mahendra in 1963 and it is also the place where the infamous scene of the 2001 Royal Massacre of Nepal took place.

The Budhanilkantha Temple

The Budhanilkantha Temple is a Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu- one of the principal deities of the Hindu pantheon. It is located just below the Shivapuri Hill to the north of the valley. One of the temple’s main features is the reclining statue of Lord Vishnu that is suspended in the water. The statue depicts the deity reclining on the coils of the cosmic serpent Shesha– the Hindu King of all the Nagas (Snake-Gods) and the primal being of creation in the Hindu mythology. The statue is carved from a single block of black basalt and stands 5 meters tall. It is considered the largest stone carving in Nepal.    

In the Bhaktapur District

The district of Bhaktapur is located in the eastern part of the Kathmandu Valley and is the smallest among the districts of the country. The city of Bhaktapur is the district headquarters and the district contains many temples and shrines that showcase amazing skills on wood carvings and stone masonry, along with locations and vantage points that are perfect for short hikes and Himalayan views. Here are some top places to visit in Nepal in the Bhaktapur District-

Nagarkot

Nagarkot is a famous vantage point and a short hiking destination of the Kathmandu valley. It lies at an elevation of 2,195 meters and is considered as one of the most scenic spots of the Bhaktapur district. Known for its view of the sunrise amidst the Everest Himalayas, Nagarkot is a great place to get away from the bustle of city life and be immersed in nature. It is quite popular for its panoramic view of the Kathmandu valley and of the Himalayan ranges. About 8 Himalayan peaks can be seen from Nagarkot. The place has also been gaining popularity as a paragliding spot in recent years.

The Bhaktapur City

The city of Bhaktapur is the largest of the three “Ancient Newar Kingdoms” of the Kathmandu valley. It is also referred as “the Place of Devotees”- a name quite befitting the city because of its many temples, monuments and statues that makes the city resemble an open museum. The city also has the best preserved palace courtyards and city centers that date back to centuries. Famous throughout the country for its “Ju Ju curd” (The King of Curds)- Bhaktapur is the home of Nepal’s traditional art, architecture, craftswork, pottery and traditional weaving. Some famous places to visit in Nepal in the city of Bhaktapur include.

The Bhaktapur Durbar Square (A UNESCO World Heritage Site)

The Durbar Square of Bhaktapur, much like that of Kathmandu city’s, was the place of power of the ruling monarch of the Bhaktapur Kingdom. It is a conglomeration of architecturally opulent temples built in the Nepali style of pagoda and shikhara; shrines dedicated to various Gods and Goddesses, statues depicting scenes from Hindu Epics and of heroes and the former royal palace. Highlights like the 55-Window Palace, the Batsala Temple, the statue of King Bhupatindra Malla, the Nyatapol, the Golden Gate and the Lion’s Gate are present in the complex of the Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

The Changu Narayan Temple (A UNESCO World Heritage Site)

The temple of Changu Narayan is located on a hilltop north of Bhaktapur city. The Manahara River flows beside the hill and the temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Changu Narayan is considered as one of the oldest temples in Nepal and is built with an amalgamation of both the shikhara and the pagoda style of architecture. Surrounded by sculptures and carvings, the temple is considered as one of the most intricately decorated temples in the whole country. With four entrances, the temple of Changu Narayan is ornamented with statues of life-size pairs of animals guarding the temple. The roof of the temple is supported by amazingly carved struts that depict the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The entrance of the temple is gilded with statues of the snake gods and stone pillars line the temple with outer-worldly stone masonry and sculpture work of ancient inscriptions.  

The Suryavinayak Temple

The temple of Suryavinayak lies about 2 kilometers away from the city of Bhaktapur and is a temple revered by the Hindus dedicated to Lord Ganesh- one of the most widely worshipped god of the Hindu pantheon known distinctly for his Elephant trunk in his face. Suryavinayak is considered one of the most popular shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesh in the Kathmandu Valley and is located in a forest, only reachable by foot. The temple is also sometimes referred to as “the Temple of the Rising Sun”- a name that is derived from its literal translation of “Suryavinayak” in Nepali.

The Siddha Pokhari

The Siddha Pokhari is an enclosed pond 171 meters long and 73 meters wide. The pond is a beautiful hangout place in the city and a great location to feed the fishes. The pond is also known as the “Indra Daha” and is the hub of a local fair during the Indra Jatra celebration. Decorated with oil lamps and idols of Lord Shiva, the pond is also a place of worship of the Nagas. 

In the Lalitpur District

The district of Lalitpur, with the city of Lalitpur as its headquarters, is a district of much perseverance. The city of Lalitpur, also known as Patan, is the third largest city of Nepal. The city is best known for its cultural heritage that pertains to traditional Newa art. Patan is also referred as “the city of festivals and feasts”- quality that came about because of the city’s prosperity in medieval times. Architecturally designed in the shape of the Buddhist “Wheel of Righteousness”, Patan has four large grassy mounds on the perimeters of the city, one at each corner of its cardinal points. These grassy dome mounds are known as the “Asoka Stupas” and are named after the Indian King Asoka who, according to legends, visited the city in 250 BC. There are more than a thousand monuments of various shapes and sizes scattered throughout the city. Patan is also noted for its Vihars and Bahils, various water conducts, stone sprouts and water tanks. Here are some top places to visit in Nepal in Lalitpur-

The Patan Durbar Square (A UNESCO World Heritage Site)

The Durbar Square of Patan is a complexion of medieval temples and buildings. Like the two Durbar Squares of Bhaktapur and Kathmandu, the Patan Durbar Square was the ruling place of power for Lalitpur Kingdom’s monarch. The Durbar and its complex are a marvel of beautiful architecture with square floors that are tiled with red bricks. Highlights of the Durbar Square area of Patan include the Krishna Mandir, the Bhimsen Temple, the Vishwanath Temple and the temple of Taleju Bhawani. The Durbar is mainly divided into three layouts, called “chowks” and they are a sprawl of courtyards and inner temples.

In the Rupandehi District

The district of Rupandehi in Nepal is named after Queen Rupadevi- the queen of King Suddhodhana. It lies on the south-western part of Nepal and possesses Lumbini- the birthplace of Lord Gautama Buddha and Devdaha- the birthplace of Lady Mayadevi, the mother of Lord Buddha. Here are some notable places to visit in Nepal in Rupandehi-

Lumbini (A UNESCO World Heritage Site)

A Buddhist pilgrimage site, Lumbini is revered as the sacred birthplace of Lord Buddha- the founder of Buddhism and the Light of Asia. It has a number of temples and monasteries with beautiful architecture, including the holy temple of Mayadevi and the Puskarini Pond. Lumbini was inscribed under the World Heritage Site in 1997 and contains many archeologically fascinating artifacts pertaining to the life of Lord Buddha. Highlights of Lumbini include the great Drigung Lotus Stupa, the holy Bodhi Tree, the Asoka Pillar, the eternal peace flame and many monasteries built in distinct architectural beauty and intricacy.

The Chitwan National Park (A Natural UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Chitwan National Park is quite famous for its jungle safaris. It is the first national park of Nepal and covers an area of 932 kilometer square in the districts of Nawalparasi and Parsa. Nawalparasi district is connected to the Rupandehi District on the west. The Chitwan National Park is home to many endangered species of animals like the Royal Bengal Tiger, Red Panda, One Horned Rhinoceros and the Musk Deer. Jungle safari in the park is done on Elephant back and is a great way to enjoy the forests and woodlands of the region while observing animals in their natural habitat.             

In the Annapurna Region

The region of Annapurna lies in north-central Nepal and is home of the Annapurna Mountain massif. The region is considered as one of the most beautiful regions for trekking. It has many small villages and towns that are the residence of the country’s Magar and Gurung ethnicities. Among the many places to visit in Nepal, the Annapurna region is the most popular. About half the visitors of the country tend to go to the Annapurna. Here are some highlights of the Annapurna region-  

The Annapurna Base Camp

The Annapurna Base Camp lies an elevation of 4,210 meters in the Annapurna Himalayas. It lies under the protection of the Annapurna Sanctuary and is one of the most visited trekking destinations of the region. The snowy expanse of the base camp is quite beautiful and the serenity of the place is very dream-like. It is often the basis of the famous ABC Trek that many people undergo.

Pokhara and the Phewa Lake

Pokhara is the largest city of Nepal and is quite famous as the adventure capital of the country. The city is also the starting point of many trekking journeys in the Annapurna region. The Annapurna Range lies close to the city and Annapurna peaks like Dhaulagiri, the Annapurna I and Machhapuchhre can be seen from the city. The Phewa Lake is located right besides the city and is quite famous for boating. One of the main notable characteristics of the lake is its reflection of the Machhapuchhre Himal on its clear surface. Pokhara is known for paragliding and other highlights like the Taal Barahi Temple that lies on an island in the Phewa Lake, the Bindhyabasini Temple and the World Peace Pagoda.    

Poon Hill

Poon Hill is a famous vantage point of the Annapurna region and is extremely famous among trekkers and travelers of the country as the best place to witness the panorama of the entire Annapurna mountain massif. Trekkers wake up early at dawn and trek to Poon Hill, usually from the village of Ghorepani, to look at the mesmerizing view of the rising sun from amidst the Annapurna Mountains. It is one of the most beautiful natural phenomenons to take place on Earth.

Tilicho Lake

Tilicho Lake lies 55 kilometers away from Pokhara in the Annapurna Himalayas. It is located at an elevation of 4,919 meters and is the highest located lake in the world. The lake is a famous destination and highlight of the famous Annapurna Circuit Trek. The sapphire blue waters of the lake are very beautiful to look at and the lake is surrounded by the Khangsar Peak, the Muktinath Peak, Nilgiri Himal and the Peak of Tilicho.  

In the Khumbu Region- the most famous among the places to visit in Nepal

The Khumbu region, also called the Everest region, lies on north of Nepal and is the home of the Mahalangur Himalayan Range that includes Mount Everest- the Highest peak on the planet. It is a prime Sherpa settlement of the country and has many cultural highlights and a beautiful terrain. It is one of the most famous places to visit in Nepal and pulls in large number of crowds from all parts of the world every year. Here are some highlights of the Khumbu region worth a visit-    

The Everest Base Camp

The Everest Base Camp lies at an elevation of 5,364 meters in the Himalayas of the Khumbu region. Among the many places to visit in Nepal, this is one of the most popular. Many visitors from all around the world visit Nepal to do the trekking journey to the base camp of the world’s tallest mountain peak. Reaching the base camp of Mount Everest is a feat that washes a profound sense of accomplishment towards its visitors. It is the main highlight and the final destination of the popular Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal.

The Gokyo Lakes

The Gokyo Lakes are a system of freshwater lakes in the mountains of Everest that are spread out over several locations. The Lakes of Gokyo are held sacred by the Hindu people and hundreds of pilgrims from all parts of the country visit the lake during the Janai Purnima festivals. Gokyo Lakes are also believed to be the abode of the Nagas, much like any water body in the country that holds any religious significance. The beautiful Gokyo lakes are quite magnificent and surrounded by the mountains. The Gokyo RI also lies a few distances away from the lake and is famous for its panoramic view of the Everest Himalayas.

The Sagarmatha National Park (A Natural UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Visiting the Sagarmatha National Park is a matter of exploring the region’s alpine forests and visiting the many villages that are under the park’s protection, like the famous mountain town of Namche Bazaar and the holy Tengboche Monastery at Tengboche. It was established in 1976 and was the first national park to be inscribed in the UNESCO Natural World Heritage list. The park is a home to at least 118 species of birds, including Nepal’s national bird- the Impeyan Pheasant among others like Himalayan Monals and Red and Yellow-billed Coughs. Mammal species like Snow Leopards, Himalayan Black Bears, Langur Monkeys, Himalayan Wolves and Himalayan Thars are also protected in the park’s woodlands.

There are a lot more places to visit in Nepal, like Upper Mustang, the Langtang Valley and the Manaslu region among many more. Nepal is a splendid cornucopia of natural beauty and cultural riches. It demands a visit at least once in life, and even then, visiting once is not enough.

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